The present Gdansk Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences is the second oldest, unbrokenly operating, publicly available library in today’s Poland. Even on the European scale there are only a few libraries that are of similar age or older. There are many works on the history of the Gdansk Library and its growing collection of books through the centuries. Apart from a brief look at history, this particular article focuses, however, on one other aspect – loans of special collections for exhibitions organized outside the Library by external institutions – the so-called “loan service”. Such modern transformation of an old institution indicates the power of the library and its custodians not only to engage in cultural preservation, but also fostering culture. We should see the special collections loan service in the same light – as reaching out to the public instead of waiting for the public to reach the library. This fact alone indicates a growing shift in the understanding of the library as a service provider. For the purposes of this article, the Gdansk Library has subjectively selected five of the most important and interesting examples of external exhibitions that have used its “special collections loan service” between 2011 and 2020.